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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 136 to 138:

Page 92, line 31, leave out ("of the Assembly").
Page 92, line 43, leave out ("of the Assembly").
Page 94, line 21, leave out ("of the Assembly").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 136 to 138 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 139 and 140 not moved.]

Clause 106 [Community law]:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 140A:

Page 55, line 24, at end insert--
("(1A) Subsection (1) does not apply in the case of a Community obligation of the United Kingdom if--
(a) it is an obligation to achieve a result defined by reference to a quantity (whether expressed as an amount, proportion or ratio or otherwise), and
(b) the quantity relates to the United Kingdom (or to an area including the United Kingdom or to an area consisting of a part of the United Kingdom which includes the whole or part of Wales).
(1B) But if such a Community obligation could (to any extent) be implemented (or enabled to be implemented) or complied with by the exercise by the Assembly of any of its functions, a Minister of the Crown may by order provide for the achievement by the Assembly (in the exercise of its functions) of so much of the result to be achieved under the Community obligation as is specified in the order.
(1C) The order may specify the time by which any part of the result to be achieved by the Assembly is to be achieved.
(1D) No order shall be made by a Minister of the Crown under subsection (1B) unless he has consulted the Assembly.
(1E) Where an order under subsection (1B) is in force in relation to a Community obligation, to the extent that the Community obligation involves achieving what is specified in the order it is also an obligation of the Assembly (enforceable as if it were an obligation of the Assembly under subsection (1)).").

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The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 140A I shall speak also to the other amendments in this group standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn.

Clause 106 provides for a Community obligation of the United Kingdom also to be an obligation of the assembly to the extent that the assembly can implement or comply with it. Clause 108 deals with the United Kingdom's international obligations which generally do not form part of domestic law, and provides override powers for the Secretary of State to ensure that the assembly complies with these obligations.

The Government have identified a gap in the provisions, namely the various obligations of the United Kingdom which are expressed in quantitative terms, such as an amount, proportion or ratio. We shall bring forward equivalent amendments to the Scotland Bill at the appropriate time. If I could give an example, the Kyoto agreement provides for emissions in greenhouse gases to be reduced over the next 15 years.

Amendments Nos. 140A and 148A confer on Ministers of the Crown the power to specify, by order, the assembly's share of such quantitative obligations; and the time by which any part of the result to be achieved by the assembly is to be achieved. The power is conferred on a Minister of the Crown and so in theory could be exercised by any Minister. However, the Government expect that, because of their importance, decisions on these orders and on the use of the override powers in Clause 108--to which I shall return shortly--would be taken by Ministers of Cabinet rank.

In making an order, a Minister would have to have regard to what the assembly can achieve within its powers. The amendments require that the assembly must be consulted before any order is made, and Amendment No. 231A provides for the orders to be subject to the negative resolution procedure in Parliament.

It would be for the assembly to decide, in exercising its various functions, how best to achieve its share of a quantitative obligation, although in the case of the international obligations covered by Clause 108 a Minister could direct the assembly to take or not to take a particular action.

It is often the case that a long timescale is specified for the implementation of a particular target. In such circumstances, the United Kingdom Government need to be sure that the assembly will be taking appropriate interim steps to meet its share of the target. The Government will give further urgent consideration to these matters, and I therefore want to give the House notice that it may be necessary to return with further minor amendments on this point at Third Reading.

Amendments Nos. 140E, 142A and 143A provide that the override powers in Clause 108 can be exercised by a Minister of the Crown instead of by the Secretary of State. Your Lordships will appreciate that many of the quantitative obligations relevant to the assembly will be in the field of agriculture, and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food does not fall within the

9 Jul 1998 : Column 1412

term "Secretary of State". The other amendments to Clause 108 in this group are minor consequential drafting changes.

Amendment No. 140B provides that it is ultra vires the assembly to do anything which is incompatible with its share of a Community quantitative obligation. Amendments Nos. 148B and 148C adapt the judicial dispute mechanisms in Schedule 8 so that a question whether the assembly had failed to comply with a duty imposed upon it, including a question whether the assembly had failed to comply with an obligation which is an obligation by virtue of Clause 106, would be a "devolution issue" which could be referred to the Judicial Committee. This would cover such things as failures by the assembly to comply with its share of a Community obligation.

Likewise, a question whether a purported or proposed exercise of a function by the assembly is, or would be, outside its powers by virtue of Clauses 106 or 107 would also be a devolution issue: this encompasses whether the exercise of a function would be incompatible with the assembly's share of a Community obligation.

These amendments ensure that, where appropriate, a share of the United Kingdom's Community or other international quantitative obligations can be specified for the assembly; and that the assembly will be obliged then to meet that share, while leaving the assembly to decide how best to do so. I beg to move.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I welcome these amendments. I wish to flag up their importance in terms of the way they set for the assembly an agenda for meeting international obligations on sustainable development and other issues relating to environmental control. I believe that we have over 300 various international treaties and protocols relating to the environment, in addition to those aspects of European Community law which place an obligation upon member states in this regard.

Increasingly now--this will probably be the case in the forthcoming informal summit to be held under the Austrian presidency in October--the level of the European region or the small nation is seen as an appropriate level for implementing environmental protection measures and sustainable development measures as they apply to protocols and quantitative and qualitative standards of this kind. I know, for example, that the sustainable development round table is soon to take evidence on the effectiveness of the new arrangements in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales for delivering sustainable development. I am certain this is one of the aspects it will wish to study.

I also know that the European Environment Agency is increasingly looking to partnerships with the regions through the various centres of excellence in the regions and their various topic centres. It is looking to the regions as partners in the whole area of implementing sustainable development. These amendments bring a new clarity to the Bill. I very much welcome them.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, we, too, welcome these amendments. First, I should thank the

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noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for sending me a letter explaining their purport. They are perfectly fair amendments to enable Wales to undertake its appropriate share of a United Kingdom obligation to achieve an overall result that is quantifiable.

It is clear that no order can be made by a Minister without consulting the assembly. We believe that that is right. I suggest that the Minister could belong to any government department and, most likely, to the department with the task of achieving a particular result.

The noble Lord explained in his letter that the Minister concerned might be the Minister of Agriculture, who,

    "does not fall within the term 'Secretary of State'".
Will the noble Lord confirm that that is all that lies behind the change in terminology, and that the Government do not anticipate the demise of the office of Secretary of State for Wales or Secretary of State for Scotland in the not-too-distant-future and that is part of the reason for the change?

On another small point, presumably "Minister of the Crown" does not cover an assembly Secretary, or indeed a member of the Scottish executive.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, first, we do not envisage the demise of the Secretary of State for either Wales or Scotland. Secondly, "Minister of the Crown" does not include either an assembly Secretary or a member of the Scottish executive. So I am able to give the noble Lord the confirmation that he seeks.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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